The modern day chain gangs

When I got the call saying I’d got the job in a pub in central London, I couldn’t believe it.

Finally, months and months of filling in application forms, staring at my CV and thinking “What’s wrong with me? Why does nobody want me?” seemed worth it. The location alone made me believe the pay would be a bit of all right compared to the £5 an hour I got at the garden centre back home.

In reality, wages don’t change due to location when you’re working for a national company.

I worked with a very angry Scouse girl who’d just moved to London, transferring pubs within the company, who also expected a little more money to pay for the ridiculous rent we get charged down here.

Outside of term time we both worked up to 50 hours a week (more than our managers) on just above minimum wage, meaning that even if we saved up enough for a few extortionate pints, we simply didn’t have the time.

While my boss sat drinking at the end of the bar, I was encouraged to finish pouring half-poured pints that had sat for hours to give to customers if they weren’t looking.

“Stock, stock, stock!” I was constantly reminded by my manager.

I never did it and I’m pretty sure I only ever actually saw my manager do it. Imagine seeing the bartender do that then hand you the manky pint that probably has two different ales in it, I now work for a small business where happy customers come before stock.

A few regulars made it a little bit easier to work there, there was Dave with his white wine spritzers. He didn’t even have to ask, we just knew when he wanted one, and he’d have the exact change in his hand ready.

His mates Mr Guinness, Magners man, and Nice Stella Guy, were the same and all somehow spent more time at the bar than I did, and brightened it up a little bit.

My favourite customer was a cheeky chappy cockney who worked in insurance, but he was a lot funnier than you’d expect; there was a couple of very nice blokes that were very interested in my writing, and always encouraged me to write about the pub.

Working for an independent business has made me realise how shitty these big companies are

Then there was the total bastards, who the nice ones frequently apologised for. Horrible Stella Guy, who was plain nasty to everyone all the time and made me cry during a particularly stressful shift.

“Incompetent little girl,” he said to me at the end of a rant over me giving him small change making up a pound instead of a £1 coin.

It’s a simple matter of respect and he was never served by me again, nor did I pick up his glasses again, much to the annoyance of my manager.

After this I was told by management: “We can’t do anything about it, he’s a dick to every member of staff, but he comes here too often – he brings us too much money.”

I’m glad he was there though, he toughened me up for when I was told to “fuck off” by a pissed-up bloke trying to get served before everyone else. He got barred.

The last straw was drawn when Saturdays, which were normally pretty dead, got incredibly busy and no more staff were put on.

I worked every Saturday and at this time, it was me and one other person to run the whole pub including serving food and manning the bar.

It resulted in people leaving without getting served, a hell of a lot of refunds, and the dreaded bad reviews on TripAdvisor, but even that didn’t make my manager think to put more staff on.

After four or five weeks of this I asked for a Saturday off, not unreasonable I thought – it was the middle of October and I was told no Friday or Saturday off until the new year.

I found it really tough considering it was 12-hour shifts, consuming my whole weekend, and most of my time outside of uni.

The next day I handed my notice in and mentioned it to my supervisor who’d worked those Saturdays with me, and surprisingly she’d done the same.

Looking at the pub now they still haven’t changed their ways even though they lost two people on the same day for the same reasons.

The whole thing made me listen to ‘that’ song by The Smiths and think: “Morrissey isn’t such a wanker after all”.

Now that I’m in an enjoyable job I’ve realised Morrissey is in fact a wanker, I was just tired and deluded for a while.

Working for an independent business has made me realise how shitty these big companies are; my bosses appreciate me and in return I have found myself becoming loyal to them.

Here, I can voice my opinion, I’m listened to, and if a customer is rude, even if they are a regular, I’m not forced to fake a smile, but I choose to out of respect for the owners.

Here I am much more concerned about things like stock and the success of the business, when all the staff and the bosses are friendly with each other. In a major company you’re putting in the hours for no one.

I’ve been here almost a year, and I thought about leaving once, saying I had no loyalties to them and I should be paid more.

However I’ve recently discovered that I love the people I work with, and even though I get paid slightly more than minimum wage, our tips are OUR tips instead of going to the big boss.

 

 


Featured image by Lee Haywood via Flickr CC